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Lighten up this Thanksgiving

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It’s good advice for this time of year, whether we’re talking about getting along with relatives or keeping track of holiday calories. As the season of temptation gets rolling with Thursday’s feast, just lighten up — on consumption, stress, guilt, all of it.

This week might not be the best to embark on a new weight-loss plan, so if you do over-indulge, go easy on the guilt.

If your college-age kid comes home with a few extra pounds, keep your mouth shut.

One easy place to lighten up is on Thanksgiving side dishes. You can still have the traditional elements, but consider swapping citrus for cream in the green beans, honey for sugar in the cranberry sauce, and whole grains for white bread in the stuffing. A typical Thanksgiving dinner can range from 1,500 to 3,000 calories — much more than a meal’s worth for the average person.

We’ve given the traditional sides a makeover, and to help you keep pace with your fitness goals, here’s a cornucopia of healthy ideas from “Good Housekeeping Drop 5 lbs” by dietitian Heather K. Jones:

Hold back at the buffet. If you’re first to get your food at the buffet, you’ll be finished eating before the rest of the party and tempted to head back to fill your plate with more food. Jones says to chat away from the table so you’re not tempted to consume absent-mindedly.

Be the server. Instead of accepting the humongous piles of food your great-aunt dishes out, offer to serve everyone at the table. That way, you choose how much ends up on your plate (and you get brownie points for being helpful, suggests Jones).

Don’t hoard leftovers. If you host the holiday meal, keep only the meat, baked sweet potatoes, veggies and salad. Send any high-calorie goodies home with guests.

Take a quick walk. A California State University study that tracked frequent emotional snackers found that those who went for a brisk five-minute walk when they felt frazzled were much less likely to eat than those who just sat still.

Don’t get caught up in the holiday frenzy. Decline a couple of party invitations. If shopping stress is causing you to overeat, talk to your family about ways to make this year less chaotic. The more open and honest you are with yourself and with family and friends, the less likely it is that you’ll turn to food to soothe yourself during the season.

Buddy up to manage stress
. To avoid gaining weight now, you need commitment and awareness. Call a friend when an emotionally triggered craving to eat strikes. Instead of polishing off a carton of ice cream after a stressful family dinner, share how you feel and deal with the emotions, says Jones.

Making conscious food choices and practicing portion control can prevent excess weight gain, says Dena McDowell, a nutrition expert for Take Off Pounds Sensibly.

She reminds us to use a smaller plate, load half of it with vegetables or fruit, and choose skinless white meat turkey instead of high-calorie/high-fat dark meat. Wait 20 to 30 minutes before taking that second helping, she says, and if you are still hungry, choose a small serving of fruit or vegetables with a glass of water.

Eat slowly and mindfully, savoring each bite. After the meal, encourage everyone to get up and get active to burn extra calories. Exercise also helps reduce stress, which, in turn, will help you lighten up.

-Kristen Browning-Blas, photo Cleveland Leader

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